In 1998, Arnett was fired from CNN after reporting in a documentary that the US commandos had used sarin gas on American troops who had defected to Laos during the Vietnam war. His producers were also fired and he disavowed the story.

In 2003, during the second Gulf War, he was fired by NBC and National Geographic after he gave an interview to state-run Iraqi television in which he voice his personal opinions. His opinions were generally thought to be anti-American. He said, "Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan" and "The first plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another plan." Official government sources insist neither of these statements reflected the true conditions. He also commented that there was a "growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war." If poll numbers at the time are any guide, this would also be considered at least an overstatement.

NBC and National Geographic issued a statement on March 31, 2003 in which they said, "Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC." They also said, "It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview with state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions."

Arnett apologized, but defended his actions by saying he had given many interviews in the past and that his opinions were not "out of line with what experts think." Interviewed on the Today show, he responded to a question about his future by saying, "There's a small island, inhabited in the South Pacific that I will try to swim to."

Arnett soon got a job with the Mirror tabloid in London. After the collapse of Baghdad, he had what was possibly the most humiliating and ironic experience of his life: he was carried on the shoulders of jubilant Iraqi citizens (who apparently didn't know who he was, just that he was a westerner) who were shouting, "Thank You Bush!"